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Claudia curled up in the window seat, her fat cat snoring in her lap. But she wasn't thinking about the animal as she stroked its thick white fur. Not for a second. Tall, handsome Trevor captured her mind, then smeared it with memories of the night she'd found him in a heap on the street.
Maybe she'd only imagined Trevor had shed his skin like a snake, leaving it in a pile. He was like a nice guy. Really nice--probably just another ordinary teenager like her.
Yeah, right. She'd seen what she'd seen.
Claudia puffed out her cheeks, overcome with worry. She had to face facts. Trevor was a demon . . . and yet, still her friend. That was okay even if it was weird.
The cat snubbed her, squeezing its pudgy eyes tight as Claudia continued to pet it with her painted nails.
Why did Trevor pretend to be a high school student when he was a freak? What was the point? Claudia pressed her temples. This didn't make sense. She'd sure never look at a handsome guy the same way. A couple of years of high school and she had already learned that.
She'd also learned no one dared to discuss the night Trevor had disappeared and Patch was hauled away, which frustrated Claudia. She wanted to talk it out, to understand.
She laid the sleepy cat onto the floor, padded barefoot into the kitchen, and stacked half a dozen fudge cookies next to the fruit on her plate. In the summer she could do what she wanted: watch movies, eat, shop, eat, nap like her cat. Then have another snack.
Claudia had almost three whole months of freedom before her. She could be gone all day and no one would miss her.
Patch was thirsty . "Any more juice?"
Snips, the tattooed barber from New Peace Clinic, popped open the cooler between the front seats of the van. "Grape okay?" He also tossed Patch a package of sealed crackers with pale orange spread mushed between them.
Patch didn't know how to act, what to say. One moment he'd been turned over to Cheryl McCry, the wickedest witch in the World Peace Alliance. The next he was heading north with a couple of Tattooed Rats--friends willing to risk their lives for his safety.
He glugged down the rest of his juice. "Can't you at least tell me where we're going?"
"Don't know yet." It was the woman, the orderly who had helped Patch at the clinic a few weeks before. She'd stopped giving Patch sedatives and substituted sugar pills--anything to jump-start his foggy brain. She was a quiet person; they had ridden several hundred miles before she'd said a word the night they rescued him: "I'm Laura. And I'm really shy."
So brave and yet still afraid.
Now she added, "We really don't know where we're going to end up. We've got a spot on the map to try to reach each night."
Snips wore short sleeves that revealed muscled arms and shiny black tattoos of scenes from the Bible. "We get the next spot each time we arrive."
"Kind of spiritual, huh?" Patch said.
"Oh, no, he's going deep on us again," Snips said, but Laura had reclined her seat and shut her eyes.
"We don't know what God has for us from one day to the next," Patch said.
Laura popped her seat back up. "Never thought of it that way." She had dark black curls, and something about her chin reminded Patch of his late mom. How he missed his parents and his little sister.